WHY DOES MY PEPPERMINT TEA TASTE LIKE WEEDS?

MINT BY ANY OTHER NAME

Your peppermint tea tastes like weeds? Really? You grew the peppermint. You’re pretty sure it’s a real peppermint plant. It said so on the little tag when you brought it home from the nursery.

When you ate the raw leaf, sure there was a hint of weedy-ness, but the peppermint was so strong it burned your mouth a little. However, after you steeped it, your tea tasted like weeds with the far-off memory of mint tickling the back of your mind. What happened? Did nature wrong you?

THE CULPRIT

There could be many reasons your peppermint tea doesn’t taste right (location or proximity to other plants, weed sprays, pesticides, soil nutrients, water…), but, in my opinion, the properties of menthol are the biggest. I whined to a Facebook garden group about my weedy tasting tea and ended up learning much more from them than I did in online searches.

Peppermint and spearmint contain menthol. Menthol, a cyclic alcohol, is the compound responsible for the strong, minty flavor of peppermint and spearmint plants. Have you ever heard that when you cook with alcohol the alcohol burns off or cooks out? That’s why nobody’s getting drunk off chicken Marsala. The Marsala wine has cooked out.

NOT SO HOT

So, back to your tea kettle… Did you use boiling, hot water to steep your tea? Guess what? Your mint cooked out. The reason your peppermint tea tastes like weeds is because you’re drinking water infused with boiled weeds, I mean mint-less plant matter. If you’re lucky, a tiny bit of mint flavor survived.

My garden friends, almost unanimously, agreed that peppermint tea needs to be steeped in merely hot water, nothing close to boiling. It saves the mint flavor and isn’t hot enough to boil the flavors of the plant part into the water.

So, yes, steep your tea right in the cup or in a loose-leaf teapot. Just don’t steep it with boiling, hot water. One of my Facebook garden friends tells me she stuffs a quart mason jar with clean, fresh mint, fills it with cold, tap water, and sets it in the sun to steep. When it has steeped enough she strains it into liter bottles and drinks it cold. Sounds refreshing.

Contributor: Sheryl C.S. Johnson 7/7/2022

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